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Six-Year Quest For Kansas Autism Insurance Reform Ends in Victory

April 16, 2014

OVERLAND PARK, KS (April 16, 2014) -- Governor Sam Brownback today signed legislation expanding autism insurance coverage beyond the state employee health benefit program, culminating a six-year campaign to enact more meaningful reform in Kansas. Enactment of the law also made Kansas the 10th state to amend its original autism insurance law to make it stronger.

“Autism Speaks applauds Governor Brownback’s support of the autism community," said Mike Wasmer, a Kansas resident who serves as Autism Speaks' director of state government affairs.  "This bill is an important step toward providing access to medically necessary treatment for all individuals with autism in Kansas.”

Sponsored by Rep. John Rubin (R-Shawnee), the new law, HB.2744, will require state-regulated large group and "grandfathered" small group individual health plans to cover medically necessary treatments, including applied behavior analysis (ABA), for autism for children up to age 12.

The bill as initially proposed by the House Insurance Committee would have limited ABA coverage to 10 hours per week, but was raised after vigorous opposition from the state's autism community. As enacted, the new law allows for 25 hours per week of ABA for four years from the time of diagnosis and then reduces to 10 hours per week.

The new law is spearate from the state's 2010 autism insurance reform law which applies only to state employees. The 2010 legislation when introduced would have covered the private market, but was amended into a pilot program limited to state employees to gauge the impact on health care costs. When the 2010 law was enacted, Wasmer, then president of the Kansas Coalition for Autism Legislation (KCAL), said, "This is not the end, but rather the start of getting autism treatment to all in need in the state of Kansas."

After being judged a success, the program was made permanent for state employees, but Kansas lawmakers continued to resist efforts to expand the coverage to the private market. In 2012, efforts to force a bill out of a committee fell one vote shy of success.

After Rubin introduced a bill this year that would have provided broader coverage, the insurance lobby filed a second version with much more restrictive terms and would have cut back existing benefits for state workers. After heated opposition from the state's autism community, HB.2744 was introduced as a compromise measure. 

Wasmer said the new law marks a step forward, but that efforts will continue to provide the best coverage for the most children. The existing state employee autism benefit will continue unaffected by the  new law.